Love & Money: How to Legally Protect Yourself
There’s a lot to think about and decisions to make when it comes to getting married, especially when it comes to combining assets with your significant other. So many questions come up around how to combine financials and protect your assets that I thought it’d be helpful to get some insight and advice from a family law firm – Berenji and Associates. Nikoo Berenji, Counsel, answers some that have been top of mind for many women.
Cash Bar: What does a family law firm do?
Nikoo: Most people automatically think of divorces when they hear the term “family law,” when in reality, there’s so much more to the services we provide. Our family law firm addresses the different stages of the life of a family. This could be anywhere from establishing a pre-nuptial before a marriage so that individuals can protect themselves, and even to representing the needs of dependent or neglected children until they reach a certain age long after a divorce.
One often-overlooked service is a post-nuptial, where couples can make arrangements regarding how to handle their affairs and assets after they get married. Like all relationships, we know dynamics and opinions can change. The purpose of a family law firm like ours is to be there for individuals and families when life milestones affect the way people need to protect and prepare themselves for the future.
Cash Bar: What are some of the biggest concerns/issues your firm is seeing with engaged couples?
Nikoo: Not taking the finance talk seriously enough. When couples aren’t comfortable in being transparent with each other about their current or previous financial life, it’s usually a red flag. In these situations, we find that one partner ends up having resentment over the other because there’s a lack of understanding. Then that resentment spirals into other issues.
We’re advocates that everybody should feel confident about asking for transparency when it comes to financial habits in a relationship.
Another thing we’re noticing is that couples aren’t aware of all the options they have. After having a finance talk, some people assume that getting married is no longer a good idea because of their partner’s financial circumstances. But in reality, there might be ways of handling those circumstances so they can move forward with the wedding and still feel secure financially.
Cash Bar: What is the best way to ensure couples can protect themselves before getting married?
Nikoo: Knowing your own financial picture and being aware of your significant other’s finances is only a start. Having a conversation won’t guarantee a change in spending habits or secure any of your hard-earned assets if times end up getting tough. Ultimately the best way for couples to protect themselves before a marriage is to establish a pre-nuptial where roles and expectations are designated in a contract.
Although the idea of a pre-nuptial might be uncomfortable because many people believe it insinuates a divorce, we couldn’t disagree more. A pre-nuptial is a preventative measure, much like purchasing insurance on the latest smart phone. You may have no intention of getting a divorce or cracking your screen into a million pieces, but there’s nothing more reassuring than knowing you’ve taken the steps to shield your assets and earnings if things don’t work out. And a person worth marrying is someone who respects your wishes to protect yourself at all costs.
Now, it’s important to note that even if you don’t take steps to protect yourself before you get married, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late. You can always agree on a post-nuptial agreement.
Or, sometimes we meet couples that assume their only option is divorce because their partner might make financial decisions that they feel unfairly expose them to risk. But there’s an option called “legal separation” under which a couple might stay married so they can retain the legal benefits of marriage (like using their partner’s health insurance), while also protecting themselves from their spouse’s financial liabilities.
Cash Bar: Why is it important to talk to a family law firm before getting married?
Nikoo: Consulting a family law firm ensures you don’t miss any steps that might be super simple, but that could save you from a very expensive and traumatic legal battle down the line. An attorney can also advise you about the best ways to maintain your finances during the marriage to reduce potential conflict and personal financial exposure if things end up not working out.
At a minimum, even if you don’t see your marriage ever failing, speaking to an experienced family law firm will give you peace of mind about the plunge you’re about to take!
And it’s worthwhile establishing a relationship with a firm beforehand so you have advisors you can trust whenever you reach different milestones in your life. Whether it’s determining how to leave your legacy with children or establishing grandparent rights, a family law firm can help along the way.
Cash Bar: Anything else to add that’d be helpful for readers to know?
Nikoo: Many people have grown accustomed to diagnosing their own issues or gathering tips from places like webMD and Wikipedia, but there’s just no substitute for calling a lawyer and discussing the personal details of your situation. No website can accurately predict how the law will apply to your specific situation. Sometimes one very small detail can have a huge impact on a case. So only a lawyer who knows the details of your particular circumstances - and experience with the courts and judges that will be deciding your case – can give you a true sense of how to get the best results.
There is nothing more important than your family’s well-being. You don’t want to entrust that to a one-size-fits-all website, or anyone but a qualified family law firm that will tailor its advice and service to you and your needs.
Here are ways to get in touch with Berenji Family Law: